Monday, April 03, 2006

 

DST is here, but it's snowing again


Snow in April isn't really unexpected but it sure is hard to take. At least it isn't sticking. The sun doesn't set until 9:00 - but all that means right now is we get to look at the snow that much longer every evening. February, March, and April are the worst months. April can be OK if the weather warms up like it is supposed to, but some years April starts nasty like this one, and breakup is delayed until the end of the month.

We've got big travel plans for the month of April. Z has a track meet in Homer on the 13th and we want to drive the MH down and spend the whole day beforehand. Then, April 22, I want to drive up to Anchorage for the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra's last performance (Paul Rosenthal is featured). He is so good. The night before, Andrew Cook, a cellist from LA, is performing in Soldotna! I can't wait for that one. It will be my first live cello concert!

I've been trying to play against the Rodney Yarrow Fat Notes CD. It sure isn't easy. I think I'm improving, but it's hard to hear my cello over the CD, yet if I don't play the CD loud enough I don't get the tempo right. What's working best, so far, is to keep the CD volume high, and partially uncover the left ear to hear the cello. I am really not satisfied with my cello's sound when I'm doing this, though. I have a LOT more work to do on these basic pieces...

Each day, I feel a little progress on Farmer and Minuet #2. On the Farmer, every once in a while I get that hooked bowing part to sound just like it does on the CD. Then, I start "thinking" it too much and lose it again. Also, the other part, which I was playing almost automatically before, isn't so good anymore. I feel like maybe I've started thinking too much about it.

But all in all, progress every day! On the Minuet, I got the initial licks just right at a reasonable (but still slow) speed. I'm even getting the motion for the fourth finger extension right (although I still have to work on hitting that exact note properly). I can see that I'll probably never get this perfect. Every time I play it, I will find some flaw that still needs fixed.

I've been thinking a lot lately about my motivations for learning the cello. I've spent a lot of time on the CelloChat Forums (41 posts, so far) and its chat room, and I've learned so much from other people about tips and techniques, etc. But on another front, I get discouraged sometimes when I think that some of these people have played for 3o or 40 years! I know that this shouldn't be discouraging, but it is. Is this envy; my usual sense of inadequacy that has dogged me socially all my life; or just a cold breeze of reality telling me that I'm way too old to be doing this?

Will I ever reach the point where I feel confident enough to say "I play the cello!" instead of "I'm trying to learn to play the cello"? Where I'd be confident enough to take my cello to a jam session and play a bit with some guitars, banjos and mandolins; and even some fiddles? Where I'd be confident to fill in for someone at a wedding or funeral, or something? Clearly, I need to be able to play reasonably in the first four positions, with a decent vibrato before I'd be that comfortable doing this. How long is this going to take me?

Yet, I do enjoy playing every day. I get a charge when I get something right; when the music rings; when the notes seem to "fall" out of my fingers. Even as limited as I am now, I feel that I am improving and that as long as I keep playing, I will continue to improve. I also realize there are no shortcuts, and that I will have to work my way up that long ladder of technical skills just like everybody else. The talent issue is deeper within me, apparently manifesting itself right now in the drive to learn the cello. Occasional glimpses of my "inner music" seem to come and go. But lately, I've tried to maintain focus on the fundamental techniques, using drills and repetitions.

About Suzuki. The method cleverly teaches a progression of skills, introducing one at a time, building off the previous skills. Initially, I quickly worked through the first 2/3 of Book 1 and have been working on the last 1/3 for some time now. The problem is, I am getting bored with the same 15 (or so) pieces, every day, day-after-day. It's hard to pay that much attention to them, and sometimes I get sloppy with my intonations or with tempo and rhythm.

I know I'm not ready to move onto harder technical skills, but it would be nice to be able to work a little bit each day on a new piece that fits into my existing skill range. Just one new piece at a time that I could add to my daily repertoire until I get it right. This would allow me to refine my latest skills while not stepping outside the Suzuki method. At our last lesson, my teacher said she was going to email me the name of a book of cello/fiddle music I could start working in parallel to my Suzuki progress; but she hasn't yet. I'm going to call her tomorrow.

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